UPDATES TO THE FAST BIKES’ SPORTSBIKE OF THE YEAR? APRILIA CAN HARDLY GO WRONG, CAN THEY?
WORDS: ALASTAIR ‘A-FORCE’ FAGAN
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Then again, if motorcycle manufacturers stuck to that philosophy, we’d be thrashing bikes still supping four star. The year of evolution, not revolution, continues with Aprilia’s RSV4 undergoing minor refinements. The launch was held at Estoril. So, that’s an RSV4 and a GP circuit – a blend almost as alluring as Sienna Miller and a cigarette.
The phrase ‘world superbike for the masses’ isn’t a phrase we use loosely, and Aprilia’s flagship model brags that tag exclusively. Owning an RSV4, in road trim, is the closest thing to opening up the garage and finding Max Biaggi’s racer sat there. Everything from the chassis, to the motor, to the electronics package has a direct link to Max’s championship-winning bike.
We’ve lost count of the number of Panigales traded in for RSV4s, after owners stumbled upon the 1199’s ‘interesting’ attributes and utter brutality. Anyone with an ounce of sense and appreciation for unadulterated performance has voted the Aprilia RSV4 numero uno. If there was a redundant £15k to splash on a new bike, the majority of the FB office would find our nearest Aprilia dealer.
So what’s new for 2013? Highlights include another 4bhp to the already awesome V4 motor (still no gear-driven cams, though), some updates to the APRC electronics package, chassis tweaks and, as the new suggests, the introduction of ABS.
Racing-spec ABS is proving to be more fashionable than snorting plant feed this year, with Aprilia joining Triumph in proper performance enhancing braking, as well as mild safety manners. But the all-new Bosch 9MP system is far more intelligent than even some human beings, boasting an anti-lift function as well as simply preventing your wheels from locking up. A sensor (that Aprilia won’t divulge any further) controls the lift of the rear under heavy braking and, depending on selected mode, allows or limits the parameters of movement. Genius, eh? As with most sensible systems, the Aprilia’s can be turned off, but it was never intrusive during Estoril’s barrage of braking zones.
Braking is now an area the RSV4 bosses, as all new Brembo M340 calipers don the 2013 models. Braking from the sixth-gear, 150mph start/finish straight and setting up for the first-gear turn one at Estoril, I doubt even Rossi could outbrake the RSV4.
We honestly couldn’t conjure up any complaints about the original chassis. It’s everything you’d expect from 51 world championship’s worth of R&D – and the majority of them have been GPs. Riding the RSV4 on sun-drenched Tarmac is cornering nirvana, but Aprilia’s test riders and engineers wanted more stability, particularly under braking. Who’s to argue?
Shifting weight onto the RSV’s arse by lowering the engine 5mm, likewise the swingarm pivot (that’s still adjustable), does the job. Things would get kinda squirrelly when you asked too much of the GP-derived, flexless chassis of previous incarnations – we can only assume that’s why the RSV4 hasn’t been able to compete in UK racing. But now you’d swear there were four wheels and active suspension on corner entry, such is the stability of this revised machine.
This counts for both models, the R and the Factory. While the R lacks the multi-adjustable chassis and engine positioning, the Sachs suspension is far from a deficiency. It lacks some progression in the stroke of the Factory’s Öhlins bling, but will only be fractions slower against the stopwatch – and just as able on UK roads. The R’s matt black paint scheme and diminished goodies aren’t worthy of the £2.5k price difference.
Regardless of engine repositioning and chassis tweaks, there’s still nothing that can hang with an RSV4 (R or Factory) when it comes to sexy handling. Running deep into an apex with insane mid-corner speed, trailing the brake, with unfathomable levels of front-end punishment, only the new Daytona 675R exudes the same confidence inspiring heroics. For me, some of the fluidity has vanished and the change of direction has been castrated a little, but it’s a minor aggravation when comparing new versus old. If you haven’t ridden an RSV4, you simply haven’t experienced how a bike should handle. Try one, you’ll like it...
Like Ducati believes in its v-twin Desmo heritage, Aprilia deem the V4 configuration to be the daddy. We’ll go with that. The RSV4 proves you don’t need 200bhp to go fast (and constantly lap faster than its rivals), relying on grunt and usability, an awesome soundtrack and total control. Little equals the involvement of taking the V4 to the soft-cut redline, even if the power expires before this point.
Power is up 4bhp to a claimed 184bhp, so we should see the RSV4 churning out 165-ish at the wheel. Aprilia claims this is done through meticulous attention to reducing internal friction, and sorting casing ventilation. It doesn’t sound significant, but the change is tangible, with the bulk of the power increase dumped in the midrange and surging towards the top. This means an angrier delivery, fiercely revving and chomping gears quicker than before. That innate linearity has been tarnished and, although it’s tricky to pinpoint exactly where, some of the power from the bottom has been swapped in favour of plumping power at the RSV’s 14k redline.
Since the introduction of the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) electronics, the RSV4 has been a refined and seamless superbike, almost toy-like. Even Aprilia developed and currently still employs its own electronics package in world superbike. The original model was a vicious bastard, with throttles/fuelling designed by Satan, and was blatantly built as a race bike, then hurriedly stuck together for homologation.
The traction control, which previously held your hand and remedied any over-eager throttle jockeying, now grabs you by the bollocks and insists you man-up. Changes in the 2013 updated algorithms allow more slip, more manual control, and less room for enthusiastic right hands. And then, of course, there’s the launch control and anti-wheelie, just in case you feel short changed. And if you’re bored of playing with electrical appliances, there’s always the multitude of chassis adjustment to get lost amid a set-up labyrinth.
One fundamental gremlin that dogged Sunday thrashes on an RSV4 was its thirst. We’ve seen as little as 65 miles before the fuel light made an appearance on previous models. For 2013, an extra 1.5 litres has been added to the capacity and the tank itself has undergone some sculpting to aid corner entry and the rider-to-bike relationship. This has no benefit on the roads, other than mimicking the WSB bike’s appearance.
Is it better? That depends. Yep, it’s a little faster. Yep, it’s more stable, but ultimately the 2013 RSV4 ABS is trickier (only slightly) to ride unless you’re a bona fide racer – the harder you push, the more rewarding the outcome. We can only assume the updates are purely for racing homologation on the feedback of race teams, or a commercial retaliation to BMW’s mental HP4.
We’re all about impartial opinions here, and my advice would be to stick with the older model if you’re planning a trade-in. The only exceptional benefit is the race-spec ABS. When you’ve got official Aprilia dealers punting out brand-new APRC-kitted RSV4s for £12,500, it’s a difficult subject to ignore. Aprilia UK has even managed to retain the pricing of the 2012 models, despite the addition of ABS and other R&D. Whatever, it’s still the daddy
ENGINE The ballistic 65-degree V4 with double-overhead cams gets a light tinkering from the previous lump, and sits 5mm lower in the frame. Casing ventilation, reduction in internal friction and a new exhaust add another 4bhp. The engine itself is just 225mm wide and 175mm narrower than an inline-four. Variable height intake ducts (fixed for the R version) sit on top of Marelli 48mm throttle bodies with ride-by-wire engine management taking control, and offering revised three maps. The gearbox is cassette type for easy removal and racing. APRC features on both bikes.
CHASSIS Using GP tech, the chassis is multi-adjustable, with head angle, rake, swingarm pivot all open to set-up. The frame remains as was, except for the swingarm pivot being lowered 5mm and the engine sitting lower in the frame. The frame itself weighs only 10kg, while the double-braced swinger’ is just 5kg. The new-shape fuel tank is partially located under the seat to assist with mass centralisation and improve airbox space. The big news is the addition of Bosch’s 9MP ABS system and Brembo M340 calipers. Supercorsa SPs are fitted to forged wheels.
TECHNICAL APRILIA RSV4 FACTORY
Type | 999cc, liquid-cooled, 16v, v-four
Bore x Stroke | 78 x 52.3mm
Compression | 13.1:1
Fuelling | Electronic fuel injection
Claimed Power | 184bhp@ 12,500rpm (claimed)
Claimed Torque | 117Nm @ 10,000rpm (claimed)
Frame | Twin-spar adjustable aluminum
F Suspension | 43mm Öhlins inverted fork, fully adjustable
R Suspension | Öhlins monoshock, fully adjustable
Front Brakes | Four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs
Rear Brakes | Twin-piston caliper, 220mm disc (Bosch ABS)
Wheelbase | 1,420mm
Seat Height | 840mm
Dry Weight | 181kg
Fuel Capacity 18.5L
Price | £16,599
From | Aprilia UK www.uk.aprilia.com
WSB for the masses
£16,599 (R - £13,999)
The daddy, and effortless.
FAST ROAD 10
ABS takes it to 10.
Turn off the gizmos.
NEW RIDER 2
Harder work than before.
Difficult not to get wood...
Brilliant addition of ABS, not too sure on the other updates. Still the best handling, best sounding, best engined weapon around
+ V4 MOTOR, APRC ELECTRONICS, HANDLING, ABS, SOUND
- PRICE, RACIER CHANGES MAKE IT TRICKIER